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Erlian Travel Blog

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Sunset in the Gobi

We were all getting a bit tired of Ulaanbaatar's noise, pollution, and dangerous drivers (crossing the road there was like a deadly game of Frogger). Zack, Sally, and I bought some train tickets to the Mongolian border town of Zamyn-Uud and since we also had three bikes to drag with us, we bought one extra ticket. Thus we had an entire compartment to ourselves on the train and we loaded our bikes on one bed and slept ourselves on the others. Some dude in the station tried to tell us that we couldn't bring our bikes ou the train, but we just ignored him and brought them on anyway without any further trouble. It was a bit crowded in the cabin with all the bike gear, but it was an overnight train and we slept most of the time.

The next morning, the train pulled into Zamyn-Uud, which was the only noticeable sign of life in the otherwise barren Gobi desert (note: the desert was mostly scrubland in these parts, no sign of sand dunes).

3 people, 3 bikes, 4 beds
Since it was not permitted to cross the border on bike, we had to hire a jeep driver to take us and our cargo across the border. It was early in the morning, so the border crossing was not open, and probably about one hundred jeep taxis were lined up to cross with their passengers. Our driver kept trying to cut into line, but he wasn't very successful and the army dudes kept yelling at him to line up properly.

It took several hours of sitting around in our jeep before we actually reached the border. Since we had our bikes in the jeep, there was not enough room for everyone to sit. So I had to squat in the back beside the bikes. I could only handle about 5 minutes of this at a time, so I frequently got out of the jeep and just walked beside it as it crept forward.

The Mongolian side of the border was a confusing mess, but the Chinese side was great.

Our jeep taxi lines up with the others at the border
They were very friendly and we zoomed through the check. Our driver dropped us off on the Chinese side and we rode our bikes into Erlian, the Chinese border town. The roads were wide, bike lanes were plentiful and the people were friendly. Quite a difference from run-down Mongolia. We happened to arrive just as many of the local schoolkids were all going for a huge bike ride, so we rode amongst dozens, if not hundreds, of track-suit clad pre-teens.

While searching for the bus stop, we ran into some nice Chinese ladies who not only showed us where it was, but bought our tickets for us and helped us load our bikes under the bus. They didn't even demand a mystery fee for helping us, how nice! The bus was wofu, an overnight sleeper bus. I had never taken one before, and it was quite an experience cramming myself into a half-sized bed with dozens of Chinese people. I bought some groceries to eat on the bus, but the Chinese knew better. After a couple hours the bus stopped at a restaurant and the passengers gorged themselves on huge helpings of delicious-looking Chinese food. I slept fitfully in the cramped bus bed, and we were woken up at 5am as the driver pulled into Beijing, ordered everyone off the bus, and disappeared.


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Sunset in the Gobi
Sunset in the Gobi
3 people, 3 bikes, 4 beds
3 people, 3 bikes, 4 beds
Our jeep taxi lines up with the ot…
Our jeep taxi lines up with the o…
photo by: eefab